LESSON The Ebb and Flow of Post Length

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY MECHANICS' started by Revision, Aug 1, 2012.

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  1. The Ebb and Flow of Post Length

    When it comes to roleplay post length, there is a great deal of debate about how much is too much and how little is not enough. Some prefer fast moving, short posts while others prefer detail and flowery prose. Either is fine, and so are all points in the middle. However, no matter what you choose, there will come a time when you will need to write a larger or smaller post than normal.

    While consistency is important when it comes to length and detail depth of posts, you are going to run into times where things move more quickly, or there is a large scene to describe, or you really don’t have much time in game to perform an action. In times like this, sometimes it is very tempting to sacrifice that need and focus on consistency. However, that is not necessarily the best course of action.

    Stories, as I have mentioned in the past, tend to have a natural rhythm to them. When we try to force this rhythm to be something other than how it should feel, we end up with choppy, clunky posts or overburdened, bloated ones. This is as true for post length as it is for style. But this isn’t the only, or even the most important, reason that post lengths can be fluid.

    The most important reason is necessity to convey information. Writing too much in a post can bloat it and the important information might get lost in a wall of text that, while fine for most character development scenes, might not be what you want when your character is running into a room to yell about a hull breach. At the same time, providing too little information may have players acting without the necessary resources and making mistakes with their characters. When you provide important information, keep it clean and concise. Just enough to convey the urgency or importance.

    Another important reason is conversation. Sometimes it is just difficult to have paragraph after paragraph of one sided dialogue and extraneous description. On the other hand, just having your character nod politely and do nothing else for six posts is putting the burden of carrying the conversation completely upon the other players and does nothing to develop your character. When posting dialogue, keep in character. Describe actions taken while speaking or while someone else is speaking, have your character speak in their normal patterns (unless something urgent or emotional is happening), and give others moments to interject. Yes, most conversation posts might be shorter, but then, most conversations are rapid and back and forth, not one person talking for ten minutes solid. (Disregard that last bit if your character is garrulous.) Don’t waste too much time describing how a character said something unless it would be unclear otherwise. Remember that the tone is often obvious or can easily be enhanced by italics.

    A third important reason is descriptions. Descriptions should be flexible to allow them to take as much time as needed to convey the intended level of detail. This means that descriptions of new people, places, things, and other nouns may take a great deal of time, depending on how much detail is readily noticeable. Try to remember that humans don’t tend to really look at things. If you are GMing or playing and a player glances at something, only describe what would be noticed in a glance. If they are studying how something looks, describe what would be readily remembered. If they are committing something to memory, go into deep detail. If you are the GM describing something important, highlight the important bits in great detail and fill in info as the players look for it.

    Fourth, there is emotional intensity. Any of the prior elements can be impacted by emotional intensity. A character may be more clipped in conversation. She may be bored and not care about the information she holds and thus only mention parts of it or a general gist. She may be completely wrong about something or overreacting. He may be too distraught to notice everything he normally would. Above and beyond this, the emotions, especially when you are writing thoughts and feelings out, can take up a great deal of space on their own. (Be wary not to dip into emo territory.) Or, they may be simply shown through actions. This might require describing your character’s actions in greater detail to show they are different if subtle or in less detail, especially if it is a very stark contrast.

    Because different aspects and information impact how a character will react or a scene will go, it is important to be comfortable enough to shift from a page long post to a few paragraphs to a few sentences when needed. This is a skill that will keep your writing flowing, concise, and relevant to the roleplay. As always, have fun!